Editor's note: The clash between chengguan and street peddlers in Kunming reminds the government again that it should take serious measures to eradicate the lawless enforcement of chengguan.
In the eyes of the public, chengguan has degenerated into the epitome of the evils of public power.
What happened in Kunming, Yunnan province, this past weekend provides more proof to that opinion.
During a tangle between chengguan, or urban management officers and an illicit street peddler, the latter fell to the ground, according to the official account. An angry crowd besieged the chengguan officers. When police rushed to the scene and attempted to escort the officers out, violence broke. Thirteen police and chengguan officers were reportedly injured, and 14 of their vehicles were overthrown or destroyed.
Like always, the incident has been effectively handled, according to the official account, and normal order has been restored at the scene of conflict. They have always been efficient in doing that. But let us be frank: the root of the confrontations are still out there. Unless the chengguan establishment stops playing the lawless law-enforcer, there is little chance of it becoming a welcome presence.
We have no intention of dumping all the blame on chengguan officers. There are indeed nice people among them. And unauthorized street peddlers are a troubling existence in some cases - some make a lot of noise or obstruct traffic, not to mention evading taxes.
But why is the balance of public opinion always tilted against the chengguan side? This is the question we hope the chengguan officers and their supervisors ask themselves.
If, as some have observed, both chengguan officers and their targets are victims of a problematic system, what can be done about it?
(China Daily 03/30/2010 page8)